What does Business Integrity Look Like in Practice?
There is scarcely any organization that does not have integrity listed as a value, and for some, plaques highlighting integrity are placed on walls around the organization. However, what does it mean in reality to be a business with integrity?
The businessdictionary.com defines integrity in the following ways:
1.Strict adherence to a moral code, reflected in transparent honesty and complete harmony in what one thinks, says, and does.
2.State of a system where it is performing its intended functions without being degraded or impaired by changes or disruptions in its internal or external environments.
The first definition refers to behaviors including honesty in marketing, recruitment and in all business practices. It means copping to faults when one makes them. It means all officers of an organization are honest and transparent in all their dealings with different stakeholders, even the tax agency.
The second definition of integrity connotes consistency in performance regardless of environmental constraints. It means that a business should foresee situations that could impede its ability to deliver on its promises and mitigate those risks early or apologize in advance when it is unable to remedy a potential failure.
Given that a business is essentially a community of individuals, a business with integrity will ensure that it selects people that show a predilection for honesty and are committed to meeting their obligations at all costs.
In Nigeria, a feature of integrity that’s difficult to find is the ability to keep one’s character from being impaired by the environment. The prevalence of institutionalized corruption makes it difficult for businesses that start out with integrity to stay the course. It is now common business parlance to refer to gifts given to sway opinions of decision makers during a contracting process as ‘PR’ instead of bribes.
Essentially, integrity is a tall order albeit a very beneficial one. The benefit of acting with integrity consistently is that forgiveness is easily received in the case of a momentary lapse in standards.
It is better not to label oneself as a business with integrity if one is not ready to pay the price. In this case, breaches are also seen as hypocrisy and regarded more egregiously.
Finally, as with all things “Integrity must start at the helm, and then it can percolate down through the deepest layers and become the heart and soul of the company’s culture.”- Martin Zwilling. Forbes Contributor.